Coalition says Austin City Council not doing enough to tackle gentrification

"A lot of people in this building, when approached by citizens sometimes say 'Oh they're just complaining, they're just whiners. Let them put a plan on the table.' Well we did that!" said East Austin advocate Dr. Fred McGhee on Thursday.

Dr. McGhee and a coalition of other East Austin leaders gathered outside of City Hall to demand the City of Austin adopt the "People's Plan."

"We have a crisis basically and something needs to be done.  But so far nothing, nada.  And I'm here to say 'ya vasta' enough of the reports it's time for action," said Dr. Jane Rivera. 

Dr. Rivera was a member of the Mayor's Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities. Rivera says she and others in the community presented the People's Plan, a comprehensive anti-displacement plan for Austin on Martin Luther King Day of 2018. She says more than a year later, on the 51st anniversary of MLK's assasination, the plan hasn't been implemented.

"So I would invite the entire City of Austin, those that are fair-minded and our City Council to embrace this plan.  It's already here," said NAACP President Nelson Linder.  

The group says there are 6 proposed resolutions in it including establishing a low-income housing trust fund, right to return and right to stay programs and using city-owned land to create low-income housing.

"We have not created 2000 units of low income housing on city-owned property.  One of the reasons is because we gave that property to the Columbus Crew or now the Austin FC," McGhee said.

The People's Plan is analyzed in the City's "Displacement Mitigation Strategy" report, complete with 19 recommendations. "The city staff has furnished an analysis of the plan by now.  We have responded to their analysis of the plan. They have not continued to reach out to us," McGhee said.  

As for the $250 million of affordable housing bond money that passed last November...

"This $250 million is essentially like an asprin for Cancer," McGhee said.  

"The City has got to make sure that it opens up that bond money to people of color and not just to special elitist white people that have been running different programs," said Susana Almanza with PODER. Dr. McGhee has a message for Council Member Greg Casar whom he says seems to be the most vocal Council Member on affordable housing issues.

"I know that members of the Austin City Council such as Council Member Casar of River Oaks fancies himself an expert on the subject of affordable housing.  I would like to suggest to him and others on the Austin City Council that perhaps he has a few more rungs on the ladder to climb before he matches our experience and scholarly knowledge," McGhee said.

We reached out to Council Member Casar for rebuttal.  He tells FOX 7 "My record on fighting for affordable housing -- and against displacement -- speaks for itself." 

FOX 7 Austin also spoke with Council Member Jimmy Flannigan today to get his response to the press conference. Flannigan says they agree on the concern but there are some things state law won't allow them to do...and a "right to return policy" is making its way through city staff for approval.

"Much of the People's Plan has already been implemented.  In part because the voters approved a $250 million affordable housing bond which is working its way through the city process to start making those investments in the community," Flannigan said.  



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